Supreme Court pick promises to “defend secular state” in Senate hearing

Supreme Court secular state
André Mendonça speaks before a Senate committee. Photo: Edilson Rodrigues/SF/CC-BY 4.0

The Brazilian Senate’s Constitution and Justice Committee is carrying out the confirmation hearing of former Justice Minister André Mendonça, appointed by President Jair Bolsonaro to a vacant Supreme Court seat. The president initially selected Mr. Mendonça due to his profile as an “extremely evangelical” judge, after former Justice Marco Aurélio Mello retired in July.

“In the Supreme Court, I will defend the secular state and the religious freedom of all citizens, including those who have no [religious] beliefs,” said Mr. Mendonça, addressing senators.

When selecting Mr. Mendonça, President Bolsonaro said he asked his would-be justice to say the Lord’s Prayer before each Supreme Court sitting.

Mr. Mendonça spoke of preserving the independence and harmony between the branches of government in Brazil, saying he will respect the actions of the Legislature and Judiciary. “This constitutional precept is inserted in a system of checks and balances inherent to the democratic rule of law,” said Mr. Mendonça. “I believe the judicial branch should act as a mediator in social conflicts and guarantee the legitimate operation of other branches, without activism or undue interference.”

Mr. Mendonça’s confirmation hearing has been delayed for four months, as committee chair Davi Alcolumbre is opposed to the appointment. If approved in today’s confirmation hearing, Mr. Mendonça’s nomination will be put to a floor vote in the Senate.